From September of 1954 to September of 1955, I worked as an usher at the Wildey and also changed the marquee each time the movies changed – sometimes three times a week. I also remember that some movies, such as “From Here to Eternity,” ran for as long as 14 days with full houses almost every night. I was paid 45 cents an hour (up from the usual 40 cents) because I was “head usher.” I was also paid something like $2.65 a week to change the marquee, regardless of how many times a week it was changed. Frank Carter was assistant manager and Henry Foehrkalb was the manager
Kenneth Reiter, Ankeny, Iowa
I was checking on the web about things in my past and landed on your site about the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville. I was greatly impressed and pleased with your videos, especially the one with Ed Foehrkalb taken in the projection booth in 1984. I lived in Edwardsville from circa 1955 until 1965 while attending college and working for McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis. I also worked as a projectionist at the Wildey on Ed’s days off. I am attaching a picture of Ed and myself taken in the booth at the Wildey in 1958. Ed and his family and his brother Andrew were dear friends. I often think fondly of them and the friendship we had.
R. Bruce McRae, Redmond, Washington
R. Bruce McRae and Ed Foehrkalb
The Wildey Paradise
In the movie Cinema Paradiso, the memories of a famous movie producer’s childhood in a small Italian village touched close to my heart. The producer spent his formative years side by side with the local nice old man who ran the movie projector, peeking to see the movies through the projection window openings. I, too, spent much of my youth in the projection room, watching wonderful movies by the side of the projectionist, my father. After watching both movies in a double feature, I’d go up to the projection room to be with my Dad. I viewed many movies through the projection windows. When I became tired, or bored, my father piled jackets, sweaters, and coats in the corner. I snuggled down into my cozy next and napped as the projector hummed along for the audience below in the theater. The Wildey was better than a movie … it was my paradise.
Gelane Hanrahan as told to Shelley Hanrahan
I was looking through the Wildey Website and found it very interesting. What a beautiful building with such a fascinating history. One of the things that I did not see mentioned was the tradition of prom goers from the 1950’s and 1960’s attending a late night viewing. My mom, EHS Class of ’62 went to the Wildey on her prom night. When I was in high school (Class of ’87) we were viewing old films found in the now Lincoln Middle School vault which turned out to be movies of prom guests entering into the Wildey in a lined up procession. At that time my freshman English teacher Jack Ott had discovered the movies. While I don’t know what became of them, I think they would be a great asset to the website if they were unearthed, at minimum, at least another note on the web page discussing how the Wildey played a rich part in weaving the city we call home.
I grew up in Edwardsville in the ’50’s/60’s going to the Wildey almost every Friday nite and to the ‘cartoon shows’ on Saturdays with almost everyone else I knew. As kids began to get into their teens they (we) used the Wildey as a place to ‘make out’. There was more ‘making out’ at the Wildey on a Friday nite than there was on Wagner Lane. Looking back on it now….it was really quite humorous. The balcony was used a lot for throwing popcorn over onto the people below. I also remember seeing a lot of people sneak through the side door. One of my most vivid memories is of watching Donnie Ladd doing the Twist in the aisle while the movie ‘Peppermint Twist’ was playing. The old Lux Theatre has some good memories also.
The Wildey holds special memories for me as a kid. Around 1956 I started going to the Kiddie Cartoons on summer Saturday mornings, where I reveled in the dark, cool atmosphere where the Looney Tunes characters came to life on the big screen. The laughter was infectious with the place loaded with kids. The Wildey is also the place I had the wits scared out of me when one Friday night (circa 1960) I went to see “Black Sunday”, and had to walk home a few blocks away all by myself.
The Wildey also provided the setting for first dates in junior high, where there was far less concern with the movies and much more attention paid to getting one’s arm around the girl. It’s where I saw “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth” as well as the original James Bond movies and the Franco Zeffirelli version of “Romeo & Juliet” (something like six times; my girlfriend dragged me there kicking and screaming only to fall in love with that movie). I can still smell the popcorn in the lobby and picture the lime green walls of the bathroom. The Wildey is an integral part of my rite of passage, and I’m so glad to see that it’s been lovingly restored after all these years.
Ed Kriege – Edwardsville High School Class of ‘69
Isadore Wienshienk was my grandfather and back in the 1950s and 1960s, he was the operating manager of the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville and also manager of the Grand and Princess Theater in Alton. I have lived in the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area since 1977. His Great Granddaughter, Stacy Takacs, is also from Edwardsville. Many good memories.
Faege Takacs, Glen Carbon, IL
Senior After-prom Event at Edwardsville Wildey Theatre – 1955
Janette Heuer & Wendell Durr on the red carpet entrance to the theatre. As each couple approached the spotlight, they were introduced, photographed by Eickman Studio, and ushered into the theatre, while family and friends watched and applauded from behind the roping.
A lobby presentation from the 1950s. Rosemary Bratten, an employee, is in the back row.
As a teenager in the early 1950s, I remember the Wildey as the premier movie theater in Edwardsville. There was also another theater on Main Street called the Lux.
Not too long after the Wildey was completed, a problem became apparent with the balcony. It was beginning to sag! My Grandfather, Michael B. Kane, was engaged as architect to correct the situation. He designed a series of columns to be installed to keep the balcony from sagging any further. The solution involved widening the row of seats where the columns were located. The end result of this wider row was that we teenagers scrambled to get a seat there so we could stretch-out while watching the movie.
One especially memorable event in my mind was on the evening of my 1955 Senior Prom when we Prom goers attended a movie (White Christmas) at the Wildey as part of the Prom event. The street in front of the Wildey was packed with parents and friends of the Prom goers who were introduced as we entered the theater, much like the way movie stars are introduced today.
The Wildey showed the finer pictures such as “Gone with the Wind” while the Lux mainly showed “B” westerns. The Lux was managed by Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Metcalf who held cash drawings on stage once a week. The fly gallery above the stage of the Lux is still visible from the rear parking lot. The fly gallery of the Wildey was damaged by the tornado years ago and was reduced in height during repairs.
The era of the Wildey and Lux theaters offered wonderful entertainment for adults and kids alike and Edwardsville was a grand small bedroom community. Those were good times!
Edward “Bunkie” Kane, Edwardsville, IL
I remember attending one of the few (maybe ONLY) Elvis Presley movies shown at the Wildey during the 1950’s. The Theatre was crowded and as my friends and I sat toward the mid to front rows of seats, suddenly someone from the rear started throwing eggs at our backs. My friend ended up having to take care of a mess on the back of her head and neck and the incident kind of ruined our enjoyment for that evening! I hope the Wildey re-opens (but no eggs this time).